Baby steps to improve workers’ cover

By: | Published: February 20, 2016 1:44 AM

Expectant mothers will soon have another reason to be happy. The government is planning to extend mandatory maternity benefits currently available to women working in the organised sector...

The unorganised sector employs 4.5 million or over 80% of India’s total workforce. Over half of women workers are in this sector. (Reuters)The unorganised sector employs 4.5 million or over 80% of India’s total workforce. Over half of women workers are in this sector. (Reuters)

Expectant mothers will soon have another reason to be happy. The government is planning to extend mandatory maternity benefits currently available to women working in the organised sector to female employees in the unorganised sector as well. Also, it may prolong the maternity leave for all women workers from 12 weeks now to 26 weeks.

These changes, likely to part of the proposed comprehensive Code on Social Security and Welfare being drafted by the Union labour ministry, will require additional expenses by employers but the government will also chip in for the first time.

The unorganised sector employs 4.5 million or over 80% of India’s total workforce. Over half of women workers are in this sector.

Sources said the ministry’s draft code may also have provision extending other covers to the unorganised. “We are exploring the possibility of extending the death or disability cover to all unorganised sector workers with special emphasis on scheme workers, MGNREGA beneficiaries and construction workers through Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Jiwan Jyoti Bima Yojana,” a senior official said.

Though the code, which would merge 15 generic labour laws and another six sector-specific Acts, the government intends to instil faith and hope among the mothers of newborns who often are forced to resume work soon after deliveries fearing loss of jobs. “The proposed changes will ensure the well-being of both the child and the mother,” the official said.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies only to “every factory, mine and plantation and shops or establishments where 10 or more persons are employed in any day in the preceding 12 months”.

Under the code, the government also proposes to extend the provision of the Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana to all unorganised sector workers. It also plans to repeal the Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1962, and the Personal Injuries (Compensation Insurance) Act, 1963, sources in the labour ministry told FE.

Aimed at ensuring ease of the doing business, the Narednra Modi government proposed to converge the 44 existing labour Acts into four codes. Apart from the code on social security and welfare, a code on industrial relations and another on wages have already been drafted. The code on industrial relations is being vetted by the law ministry while the code on wages has been sent for Cabinet approval. Drafting is going on for another the code on work station safety.

No labour pain:

*  Maternity leave for all female workers may be raised to 26 weeks from 12 weeks now
*  Death/disability cover for all unorganised sector workers, including MGNREGA beneficiaries
*  Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana to be extended to all unorganised sector workers
*  Personal Injuries (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1962 and Personal Injuries (Compensation Insurance) Act, 1963 may be repealed
*  44 extant labour Acts will be converged into four codes—on social security and welfare, industrial relations, wages
and safety

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